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keyword (in SEO)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

A keyword is a term chosen to describe the content of a web page. The purpose is to improve the page’s search engine optimization (SEO) value, which determines its position on a search engine results page (SERP) and the likelihood that it will be found by users.

People use keywords in their search queries to find what they are looking for online. Subtle differences in keyword choices can have a big impact on search numbers, and the importance of these choices drives the field of SEO. Often a SEO specialist has to equally be an analyst to keep up in the field due to changes to search algorithms and the ways that search engines rank pages.

A simple and cost-effective method of researching the value of a keyword related to your business is to search the term in Google. If the term is highly valued, there will generally be ads associated with it. In the case of terms with high conversion rates (visitor to sales ratio), paid ads are usually seeded at the top of the results. Seeing the competitors that rank for keywords can give a site owner an idea of the difficulty to achieve market penetration. The use of incognito mode is recommended to eliminate personalization, which can yield invalid results.

It’s important to use keywords effectively and appropriately. Google devalues pages that misleading keywords sprinkled through the content and those that use keyword stuffing in an effort to rank highly. The search engine will drop pages from results if hidden keywords are detected. The use of keywords should happen naturally, enhancing the quality of content, SEO value and yielding more organic search results.

This was last updated in February 2017

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